When it comes to songwriting, Fletcher is always willing to go there — even if it means admitting to thirsting over her ex’s new girlfriend. Ahead of her debut album, Girl of My Dreams, the singer set TikTok on fire when she began teasing her single, “Becky’s So Hot,” a pop-punk banger that, like the rest of her music, is an addictive mix of petty, messy, and real. It didn’t take long for fans to comb through Instagram and find Becky Missal, the current girlfriend of Fletcher’s former flame, YouTuber Shannon Beveridge. (Beveridge addressed her followers in response to the song, saying, “This is not PR that I am a part of … no one asked permission.”)
Fletcher, born Cari Fletcher in Asbury Park, New Jersey, has been racking up viral hits since the release of her very first single, “War Paint,” in 2015. She’s always been drawn to the nuanced, even ugly emotions people tend to shy away from. That cards-on-the-table approach might stir up controversy, but it’s also brought in an audience who loves her authenticity. “As a society, there’s so much we’re told to silence and push down,” she says. “That’s led to so much pain in my life. To be able to talk about those feelings and put them out in the open has been the most cathartic thing for me.”
Her debut — a glimmering, stadium-size record with razor-sharp pop instincts — follows suit, chronicling the 28-year-old’s journey as she picks up the pieces from her past relationships. She packs a punch on “Sting” and “Better Version,” and repurposes the hook from her 2019 track “If You’re Gonna Lie” on “Guess We Lied …” to deliver a soaring chorus that walks the line between bitterness and heartache. For most of the album, though, the singer puts herself in the crosshairs. On the standout “Serial Heartbreaker,” Fletcher tears herself apart and asks for acceptance, singing, “I’m sensitive, but not enough / I’m not the best at breaking up / Too soon to rip the Band-Aid off / A sucker for the fuck me up / Cry baby, serial heartbreaker / Don’t blame me, it’s just the way God made her.” This album is her search for redemption, an attempt to set herself free. “I’m done losing sleep over things I can’t be,” she sings on closer “For Cari.” “And I pleased everybody so this one’s for me.”
Girl of My Dreams is a crystal-clear debut that isn’t so much an introduction but a declaration that Fletcher is already here, whether you’re ready for her or not. The singer caught up with Vulture to break down the album, the TikTok drama, and her songwriting process.
“Becky’s So Hot” basically took over TikTok the second you started teasing the song, but it wasn’t originally going to be on the album. You weren’t even sure you were going to release it at all. What made you change your mind?
When I was putting together the album, “Becky’s So Hot” felt like a piece that was missing from the story. That song sort of existed outside of the way that I usually write. I happened to be in the studio writing something else, and I was creeping on my ex’s new girlfriend. She had posted a picture wearing an old vintage T-shirt that I’d worn before, and I accidentally liked the photo. She looked so hot that I was like, How can I even be mad? I was interested in exploring those nuanced, complex feelings that a lot of people think they shouldn’t talk about. I just thought, if I felt this way, why should I censor it? It’s an honest part of the journey, just like, Fuck this, but she’s hot. Being radically honest, it doesn’t bring out the prettiest emotions, but I’ve never been one to shy away from ugly feelings or edit the narrative. I’m here for those things, and that’s why it’s on my album.
This is one of the first times where you’ve used someone’s actual name in a song, which immediately opened the floodgates for people online to guess exactly who it was about. What was it like seeing that all unfold?
[Laughs] The name Becky is a pop trope, and it’s been used in music for decades. It’s meant as “the other woman,” you know, “Becky with the good hair.” It’s been “Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt.” But I wasn’t setting out to create something that needed to be confirmed or speculated about. I just jumped at the opportunity to use a name that’s been a trope for decades.
A few weeks after people started speculating, Shannon and Becky both referenced it, and even put out a limited run of T-shirts like the one you sing about in the song. That felt like definite confirmation.
Look, I think it’s badass that somebody went and claimed it for themselves and confirmed that that is who they are, right? But like I said, songwriters have been using Becky for a long time.
Your last two EPs, You Ruined New York City for Me and The S(ex) Tapes, were both about previous relationships. Do you ever feel like you need to warn your exes that you have music coming out about them?Absolutely. My songs that have come out, even the songs that I’m talking about on this album, definitely. It’s like, Hi, this is the situation, this is what the songs are called. I’d love to have a conversation about it. No matter what terms you are on with somebody, I think it’s important to give notice. I’m an artist and this is what I do, I write about my feelings. It’s weird territory, 100 percent, but giving a heads up is always something that’s important to me.
That’s kind of nerve-wracking, though. I don’t know if I’d have it in me to reach out.
Oh, I’ve done phone calls, voice-mails, long novel-length text messages. It’s just me saying, “I’m going to talk about my feelings and my experiences. I can’t speak to yours, but I’m going to honor my truth.”
Have you ever done anything truly petty to get over a breakup?
I’ve never done anything crazy like key someone’s car. See the thing is that the petty feelings that I do have, I’m not taking action on them. I’m not actually trying to fuck anyone’s girlfriend. [Laughs] I have these thoughts and then I decide to make a song about it. The pettiest thing I do is go into the studio and write “Bitter” or “Undrunk.”
You had originally planned to release a debut album in 2020, and you were about to head out on tour opening for Niall Horan. Obviously, your plans had to change. Tell me how you got to Girl of My Dreams.
I’ve been on quite the spiritual journey over the last two years. The catalyst was a breakup that I was devastated over and I had this moment where I was like, I need to take a look in the mirror, because we’re seeing codependency … it’s giving an inability to live on your own. I did a lot of work trying to figure myself out, just taking stock of what kind of relationships I want to have, what I want, and what I even know about myself.
What did you find out?
Apparently I don’t know much. [Laughs] I’m always writing about other people, but what do I know about me, the person who’s writing these things? I’m getting closer to myself now. And this album isn’t me saying I’ve figured it all out. I have a lifetime ahead of me for that. This body of work is like a time capsule, and these songs will represent these two years of growth and then I’ll move onto the next.
Is that how it usually works for you? Once you’ve written it, you move on and don’t really look back?
Honestly, it’s so weird once my music comes out; I don’t play it. I just got to New York yesterday, and every time I’m here, I think about You Ruined New York City for Me. I was walking through the Lower East Side, which is where I wrote so much of that music and I was like, Well, what would it be like to listen to my stuff here where I wrote it? I put it on and was playing “All Love” and was immediately taken back to that place and the energy I was feeling in my body when it was written. For that reason, I don’t listen to old stuff that often.
Your fans seem to resonate with your music so much because you’re taking them on your emotional journey with you. You’re not really sugarcoating any of it.
Let’s talk about those feelings! Let’s feel everything and heal! Because even if you don’t take action on those feelings, they have to have a place to go. I’m feeling jealous, let’s talk about it. I’m feeling like a petty little bitch today, let’s channel that energy. It’s all welcome at my table. [Laughs] It’s just one weird dinner party.
You’re welcoming a lot of different emotions on Girl of My Dreams. There are these big, cathartic songs on the album, and several more pared down, bring-you-to-tears moments too.
I wanted this album to show lust, desire, rage, jealousy, but also deep self-acceptance, love, and hope, because the human experience is all of those things coexisting. It’s “Sting” all the way to “For Cari.” And to get to that redemption, you have to go through “Becky’s So Hot” and “Serial Heartbreaker.” This album is to be empowered by those things because it’s what makes us fucking real.
In the past, you’ve said that you hope to be the kind of artist you wish you’d had growing up. What did you mean by that?
I grew up with a lot of examples of pop music that just felt very polished and put together. And growing up in a very small conservative town, going to church, knowing that I was queer — there was so much that I just felt like I had to make smaller and keep quiet. I didn’t know where any of these parts fit in. I just remember feeling so lost and so confused in my life. I didn’t think I could be an artist because I didn’t see any examples of people talking about their queerness, about messy relationships, or the actual real shit that was going on behind this facade.
And that’s what you were looking for — an acknowledgement of those kinds of feelings?
Yeah, I needed to do that for the little version of me so that other people could see that you can have joy and success and talk about your innermost worlds in a way that can be celebrated and that can free you and heal you. If I’m looking at it from the perspective of Little Cari, then yeah, I’m exactly that artist that I needed when I was little. That’s really crazy, and it’s taken a minute to get to this point. I’m always learning and growing and fucking up. I’ll never be perfect, but that’s the whole point. I’ve always just wanted to live a life that felt true.
You started out on The X Factor at 17. You were placed in a group because you were told you weren’t strong enough to compete solo. Your debut album is about to be out; how are you feeling?
I didn’t really believe in myself at the time, so it just made sense for me to be part of a group. I think there’s this inner voice that’s always itching and scratching at you from the inside, and over the years I’ve learned to start trusting it and listening to it. That’s when I started writing about my feelings, and put out my first song ever. I got this response from people who resonated with it and it’s just been me going off of that since. People want to feel connected, and loved, and seen, and heard, and if I can do that with my music, then that’s what success feels like to me. Girl of My Dreams is just the cherry on top, the culmination of everything that’s happened since day one.
This interview has been edited and condensed.